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Jenny Wilkinson advises on what GDPR means for you

Posted on Tue 15th May, 2018 in: Advice by Jenny Wilkinson

Six months ago we wrote a piece looking at what the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) would mean, and whether it was a blessing or a curse for PRs.

If, like us, your inbox has been flooded with emails recently from every company or media site you’ve ever subscribed to, you will be aware that GDPR comes into force on 25th May.

This changes the way companies must handle data and send communications. It is coming into effect to help ensure that not only do you only receive emails you want, particularly if they are marketing emails, but that the companies that do have your data look after it responsibly and protect your privacy.

The legislation has now been published. Not only is it lengthy, it’s also complex and prescriptive - which gives rise to new challenges for businesses, including PR agencies, which need careful thought. Although the ICO has produced a great 12-step guide to help.  

Every sector and organisation will be affected by these new rules. There is a lot to understand, in particular the impact it will have on the way marketing and comms activity is delivered. GDPR represents a big challenge for marketers, and will make a lot of traditional marketing methods, such as direct mail, impractical.

The need for ‘explicit consent’ from the person receiving a marketing message and for this consent to not only be given, but to be ‘verifiable’, could have a big impact on the systems and way we approach people. And any company doing the marketing must have clear records showing the provenance of the data and that it is being used respectfully.

In practice, this means that there could be a lot more room and opportunity for PR messages and campaigns over other marketing channels. It could create more opportunities for PR firms because, by its nature, it doesn’t require direct interaction with personal data, therefore making it a more straightforward, risk-free communications channel.

But there are still steps that those in the PR industry need to take to ensure we are compliant – even down to approaching journalists with stories for the first time via email. The traditional ‘press release’ content of an email could constitute ‘marketing’ rather than an information email.

And while there is some ambiguity over the exact definition of ‘marketing’, there are numerous actions needed to ensure we, and others in the industry, are committed to handling information on clients, journalists and others, in a respectful and safe way. 

But the exciting part is the opportunity that this presents to improve the marcomms work we deliver.

We firmly believe that PR should be about influencing audience attitudes and behaviours and that starts with clear insight into the target audience. It is only then that you can develop strategies and creative plans that will positively influence them and create truly measurable outcomes for clients.

Because people will actively opt-in, they will be choosing to engage with us or hear from us, then the quality of interaction we have will be much richer; and the insight, understanding and engagement received will be more valuable.

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